In our contemporary society, friends are made at school, at work, in neighborhoods and even over the Internet. Friends are made and kept for a variety of reasons. People make friends with others who share common interests, hobbies, and even vices. The final goal of a friendship is often simply company, a desire to spend time with someone, or doing something that they both enjoy. A Muslim ought to choose friends more carefully and critically.
Certainly, Muslims, like everyone else, want friends who share interests and who are fun to be with. We all enjoy having a picnic with a friend or going out to dinner with friends. Who wouldn't like to go to a gathering with some of their best friends? But that is not only what a true Islamic friendship is all about. In fact, an Islamic friendship is not that simple at all. In Islam, true friendships are bound by brotherhood and sisterhood, bonds that are stronger than typical friendship. They are bonds that exist for a much higher reason and with a greater goal.
Muslims make friends knowing that the relationship they will ensue is an important bond between two people who share mutual goals. Their friendship is one that exists primarily for the sake of Allah, the Almighty. The love and camaraderie that are born from such a friendship is a secondary benefit, for sure.
True Love for The Sake of Allah
Love for others comes in different forms. Love between a husband and wife is one type of these forms, all friendship is another form. However, all forms of fondness that any one person can have for any other person, for the purpose of this article, will be referred to as love.
Realistically, pure love of another person only for the sake of Allah is difficult. Few people can attain such a friendship, which is why Allah rewards such an act of faith generously. The Prophet explained, “Allah said: those who love one another for My glory will be upon daises of light [high positions], and the Prophets and martyrs will wish that they had the same.” [At-Tirmithi]
Nevertheless, many of us, in an attempt to reach this high level of faith, must try to make and build strong friendship that benefit us and our Ummah (Nation). In Islam true friendship is brotherhood or sisterhood- a bond that is strong and enduring. In this bond, men and women can find the sweetness of faith as the Prophet said: “There are three things that whoever attains them will find the sweetness of faith: if Allah and His Messenger are dearer to him than anyone or anything else; if he loves a person solely for the sake of Allah; and if he hates to return to disbelief after Allah has rescued him from it, as much as he would hate to be thrown into the Fire.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
The rewards of loving another for Allah's sake are consistent with its importance. Its impact is not singular- it affects the entire society. For the entire society to exist in harmony and peace, its constituents must be at peace. If we could each want for our friends what we want for ourselves, the world would be a better place. This is what Islam ensures. If there is brotherhood and unity among the people, the society at large will be united.
The Prophet instilled a deep-rooted love in the hearts of the companions, may Allah be pleased with them, to create a model Islamic society that all Muslims thereafter can emulate. Prophet Muhammad tried to eliminate hatred, jealousy and rivalry by inducing brotherhood, sincere love and friendship. The Islamic society is ideally built upon the foundation of brotherhood, as the Prophet advised: “Believers are like a structure, parts of which support one another. The believers, in their mutual friendship, mercy and affection, are like one body; if any part of it complains, the rest of the body will also stay awake in fever.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
How to Love Someone
Since love among the believers is a condition of faith in Islam, the peace and harmony that are desired by all can be achieved, as each individual strives to do good and earn reward. So, what can we do? How can we be sure that our friendships are for the sake of Allah? Our lives are full of opportunities to increase and improve our friendships. First, as with any undertaking, we need to make clear, pure and sincere intentions. Pertaining to the existing friendships that we already have, we should make a conscious effort to love our friends for the sake of Allah. When we make friends in the future, we should also make conscious intentions that those new friendships will be for the sake of Allah.
After a pure intention, we need sincere actions. The Prophet recommended a very simple but significant way to help Muslims gain brotherhood saying: “I swear by the One in Whose hands my soul is, you will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not tell you of something that if you do it, you will love one another? Spread salaam [greeting one another saying: As-Salaam Alaykum] amongst yourselves.” [Muslim]
Greeting each other frequently and lovingly is the first step to achieving the ideal brotherhood.
It would seem that greeting another with “As-Salaam Alaykum” is an easy action. However, given the nature of men and women and our vulnerability to changing emotions, sometimes these simple words are hard to utter. In other words, there are times when even this simple greeting is hard to say to someone with whom we might have argued. The beauty of Islam is that it is realistic. So, it is allowed for us to take time to "cool off," but we are not allowed to cut off friendships based on rash and unreasonable emotions. The Prophet said, “It is not permissible for a Muslim to be abandoned by his brother (i.e. fellow Muslim) for more than three days, both of them turning away from one another when they meet. The better of them is the one who is first to greet the other.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
These teachings encourage Muslims to improve themselves, thereby improving their society. “Do not break off ties with one another, do not turn away from one another, do not hate one another, and do not envy one another. Be, O slaves of Allah, brothers.” [Al-Bukhari]
The Prophet's words and actions live in our hearts and minds.
Heeding his advice, we should realize that we are supposed to be brothers or sisters in Islam because we share a common religion and belief. We are to be brothers and sisters in our hearts because we share a common goal: Allah's pleasure.